'Keep that history going': Iconic Robin Hood sign returns to Saskatoon's skyline
SASKATOON -- After undergoing some major work, a fixture in Saskatoon’s skyline is back.
The well-known Robin Hood mill sign - installed in 1927 - was taken down in February so LED light strips could be installed and the letters could get a fresh coat of paint.
On Tuesday, a crew reinstalled the letters on top of the milling and mixing facility located on 33rd Street East.
Ardent Mills maintenance manager Gerry Hanke says once they decided to address the nearly 100-year old sign, it didn’t take much convincing that new wasn’t going to be better. He says Smuckers owns the Robin Hood brand name, and stood by the project from the start.
“They recognized the value in the history just because they visit here lots and we are very close to our customer and it’s a good thing to keep that history going,” Hanke told CTV News.
Hanke won’t say exactly how much the refurbishing cost, but their own crews worked on site to complete the work with LED lights purchased from the United States. They run on a timer which relies on how light or dark it is outside, much like street lights.
He gives credit to the original builders of the sign too because the letters were in good shape, only requiring some new paint and touch-ups to secure the structure of the letters.
“Ninety years ago obviously they didn’t have the technology we have to laser-cut the metal and to shape the materials. You can see the craftmanship in the letters that it was done by hand.”
Hanke says the uppercase letters measure just over three metres and the lower-case letters, just over two metres. The dot above the I measures about just under one metre.
The plan was to have the sign put up Monday, but strong winds forced crews to delay the work.
A crew of three was out early Tuesday morning with a crane to hoist the letters up about 300 feet.
City archivist Jeff O’Brien says big showy signs were a trend of the time. He says businesses would pride themselves in having the flashiest signs. He points to Second Avenue in the late 1920s where both sides of the street were adorned with illuminated signage to showcase the businesses there.
“They make a big deal about this great big shiny sign so you know they are an important part of the city landscape,” O’Brien told CTV News.
Saskatoon was roaring in the 1920s like everyone else O’brien says, and it makes sense that we were getting these dazzling signs.
“You start getting all these brightly lit signs and we see the magic of downtown. When you think of downtown, you think of lights and signs and thing going on,” he said.
Media at the time reported the Robin Hood letters could be easily seen during an airplane tour over Saskatoon.
Hanke says the mill receives between six and 10 from residents every year asking about the sign.
“Callers say, do you know that the R on the Robin Hood is not lit up, I drive home everyday from my night shift and see it everyday and I want you to light it up. Or, did you know that your sign is not lit up at all? People really care.”
While the sign is up and in position, it will not be lit up until next Thursday at he earliest as crews work on wiring.
Hanke says staff at the plant have taken a lot of pride in the sign project and are honoured to be a part of history.